Saturday, January 29, 2022

NCSY’s Camp Maor is an all-girls performing arts camp in Lakewood, Pennsylvania. I have been going to Camp Maor since its inaugural summer in 2014. For the first two years Maor was run by director Sari Kahn, but for the summer of 2016, NCSY took Maor under its wing. Sari Kahn is still the amazing director of Camp Maor, but NCSY has helped the camp in many ways that made the summer of 2016 the best summer yet!

Every year Camp Maor puts on a production on the last day of camp. First, we put on a play. In 2014 it was Alice in Wonderland, in 2015 it was Peter Pan and this year it was The Wizard of Oz. The plays are directed by an off-Broadway director, Rachel Klein, who is amazing in every way. The play performance is for men and women both, but after the play there is a short intermission and then the Maor campers put on a singing and dancing performance for women only, because Maor’s goal is enable girls to perform in a halachic way. The singing and dancing performance always reflects the theme of the summer. Every year the theme is different and amazing. This year it was “The Power Within.” The songs that the campers sang and danced to all reflected that theme and it was an amazing performance. We did a similar performance for the female campers at HASC as well.

We had the benefit of a wonderful shiur teacher, Rebbetzin Bethany Strulowitz, who taught us all so much. Every day she found a new way to connect something from the Torah to the theme, “The Power Within.” She talked about the Imahot and how they found their power within and how we could be similar. Every Friday we all participated in a difficult Parsha challenge. Every week a group won and got a prize. On Shabbos, Rabbi Josh Strulowitz gave my division a shiur. Everyone looked forward to shiur with Rabbi Josh, because he discusses the Parsha and then we play a performing arts game having to do with the Parsha. Shiur is one of the greatest parts of Camp Maor. Every year Camp Maor visits New York City and goes to a Broadway show. Generally the Broadway shows that Maor goes to are connected to the play they are putting on that year. This year, since we were putting on The Wizard of Oz, Maor went to Wicked, which is an amazing show. Camp Maor got to meet the actress who played Glinda and to have a workshop with the actress who played Nessarose. Both of the actresses were extremely nice and taught the campers a lot. This year, Camp Maor became NCSY’s Camp Maor. Maor was amazing before, but now it’s unbeatable. NCSY gave Maor lots of resources that Maor didn’t have before. Each camper was able to get a full-body costume for the final performance. Every year the costumes are amazing and they are made by a costume designer who designs costumes for Broadway, but this year we had the benefit of full-body costumes. In addition, this year Camp Maor was lucky enough to have a camp mom, Marni Karpel. Everyone called her Marni, and she was super nice. A lot of campers have said that Marni was one of their favorite staff members at Maor. But of course, every single staff member was amazing. This year, Camp Maor had more publicity as well, because NCSY definitely helped with that. Therefore, Maor had a lot more campers than the other two years. Also Camp Maor had many more teachers who all knew so much about performing arts and other things as well.

In The Wizard of Oz, three of the characters have interesting body movements: the Scarecrow; the Tin Man, which I played; and the Lion. The dancing instructor worked with us on how to walk, how to run, how to skip, how to fight, how to stand, how to sit, how to fall asleep, all in character. She told the Scarecrow to always keep her knees bent, and turned inward, and she reminded her that she had no spine either, so that she had to be floppy everywhere. She told me basically the opposite. I couldn’t bend my knees, and every single move I made had to be sharp and jerky. When I skipped I swung my straight leg out and in so that I wouldn’t have to bend it. The lion was taught how to faint on stage, and she was also told to hold her hands in a clawed way but hold them above her head and not near her shoulders, for more fierceness.

The voice instructor gave an elective about noticing every detail of what your body does while you sing. She gave us chocolate and we had to notice things about chocolate that we never noticed before. And then she had us do vocal warm ups. While we sang she would ask us to say one thing we noticed ourselves doing. If it was something good she explained it and went on, but if it wasn’t she would explain it and help us fix it so it became something good.

One of the acting instructors was a Broadway actress, Remy Zaken. Remy taught us real improv (improvisation). She told us all the rules of improv: (1) Never say no. (2) Never ask open-ended questions. (3) And never have more than one unbelievable idea in an improv skit. The campers really thrived on these improv games and learned a lot. Through Remy Zaken, Camp Maor managed to reach Jonathan Groff, an actor from the Broadway show Hamilton. Jonathan Groff sent Maor a good luck video before our final performance. As a lot of the campers were obsessed with Hamilton, the reaction was very amusing. I, personally, am not a huge Hamilton fan, so I watched from the sidelines while the campers were screaming, some of them even crying, and it was very funny to watch.

This summer in Maor was amazing; the final performance was beautiful, and we were especially lucky to perform at HASC. The teachers taught us all so much and we all had a great summer. I look forward to coming back next year!

Chava Schapiro is a Bergenfield resident and a freshman at Bruriah High School.

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